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Whether the weather is naughty or nice
Random Thoughts, January 12
Random Thoughts by Wendell Smith

MUSCODA - I wonder if there is any subject that generates  more conversation than the weather of the moment. If you meet a co-Muscodite at the grocery store, post office, church, or wherever, the conversation usually starts with, “Nice Day!” or “I hate these damp cold days!” Whether the weather is good or bad, it seems to always generate a hot or cold comment.

A cousin and I share a telephone line quite often with the exchange centered on weather. He lives near the western end of Nebraska, an area that has recently seen major highways closed for numerous days because of snow, sometimes coming as dayslong blizzards.

Weather may be a factor when deciding where we  live. Many years ago I had a great-uncle and aunt who spent their summers in Nebraska and winters in Florida. They were retired Nebraska farmers and relatives would ask them, “Why do you go to Florida where they have hurricanes?” Uncle Clint would reply, “I would rather experience a Florida hurricane than go through a Nebraska blizzard.”

Some people may disagree with that logic. When Vi and I sat in our warm living room and recently witnessed, through television, the destruction of homes and businesses in the South by wind and water, she opined, “At least the snow doesn’t come in the house and get you!”

I have never been in a hurricane, but I do remember Nebraska blizzards and they can be killers as people get lost, sometimes close to home, but can’t find it. Vi recalls a blizzard when her mom sat in a window, with prayer book inhand, waiting for husband to show up through the wind-driven snow, carrying a calf he went to rescue. Everyone survived and the calf became a cow named “Frosty.”

One of the historic weather events in this area was the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940. I have written about it in the past and continue to be interested in stories it generated. The late Mel Ellis, Milwaukee Journal outdoor writer, reported 39 Mississippi River duck hunters died in the storm, as did more than 75 Lake Michigan sailors. A couple of Muscoda duck hunters told me about leaving the local river bottoms because of the storm.

Recently I was gifted with a new book titled “In the Grip of the Whirlwind – The Armistice Day Storm of 1940”, written by Tom Powers. It’s filled with stories of bravery and graphic sadness. It notes when the storm hit Chicago the damage resembled that which was taking place on the other side of the world when the Germans bombed English cities, early in World War II.

On the lighter side the book tells about an unusual football game that took place that day in Minnesota. It was an afternoon contest with the Winona High School team traveling to Rochester. When the game started there were 600 fans present, but as the storm hit, only about 75 spectators were still in the stands at the half. They saw what may be the most unusual high school game ever. It was topped off in the third quarter when the Winona punter was called into action. Witnesses said when the ball gained altitude going into the wind it just hung in the air, like a kite, until it came back to earth behind the punter. Rochester won the game 13-6 and the Winona team and fans spent the night in Rochester.

That story prompted my memory. The Nebraska winter of 1948-49 was bad, perhaps the worst. I was in high school playing basketball and can recall home teams would contact their fans and line up places where visiting fans and players could stay if a snow-moving storm came up as the game was being played. That never happened, but it was a risk.

Perhaps reading the Armistice Day book could make you a bit more cautious about challenging predicted stormy weather, even with the much improved forecasting we now experience.